It can take a long time to make maintenance a habit. Too often anything requiring ongoing attention become occasional, procrastinated activities performed with resentment and guilt. This is perhaps because it's so ingrained in the human psyche to seek immediate gratification (which is the same as avoiding immediate pain or annoyance). Once you see how maintenance applies to many of life's different domains, it’s much easier to see that it’s not only the better thing to do, but also the rightthing to do and also the bestthing to do.
Un-clutters your mind
Is more efficient and effective than the alternative (letting things fall apart then trying to fix them)
So let’s talk maintenance. The word probably conjures images of repair - your dad with a greasy wrench and a foul expression on a Saturday afternoon or your mother mending the crotch-hole in your jeans for the umpteenth time (or your mom with a wrench and your dad with a sewing needle). Both of them are paying respects to the gods of maintenance, otherwise known as the god of ‘shit you don’t want to deal with, but which will bite you in the ass much harder in the future if you don’t take care of it on a regular basis’.
The tricky thing is, even though maintenance is needed for just about everything, each individual domain requires a different schedule so it ends up being difficult to stay on top of everything without a set schedule. Most of us actually have maintenance schedules that we just don’t think about as ‘schedules’, the most consistent of which is (hopefully) brushing your teeth. Every day you get up and do it, and every night before you go to bed, you do it. You are maintaining teeth, rather than letting them rot then drilling them out and filling them with expensive, fake tooth replacement goo. You are also 'maintaining' your teeth by eating healthy most of the time.
Here are some classic acts of maintenance you probably carry out on a regular basis:
Cleaning your room
Brushing and flossing your teeth
Tracking your finances
Organizing your phone or computer files
Cleaning your body (showering, bathing)
Maintenance takes way less time (and thus creates less pointless pain) overall, which is really why it’s the ACE solution. The problem with letting things fall apart is that not only do they become harder to repair (and perhaps become broken beyond repair) they become way more chaotic and stressful to deal with and they usually get the job done worse in the end.
For me, the biggest wake-up call was in the financial domain. I spent my entire 20s as a self-employed, freelance musician, living ‘gig’ to ‘gig’, lesson to lesson, and odd job to odd job. The problem with being self-employed is that some of the freedoms you gain from not being under anyone’s thumb are actually burdens in disguise - one of them being ‘complete control over your finances'. This means you don’t receive a pretty little paper at the end of the year stating how much you made and how much the government took. Instead you have to track every penny, dime, and dollar yourself and not only what you made, but also what you spent, where you spent it, and whether or not those expenses are ‘business write-offs’. The whole process is dismal and there are many ways to get lost if you don’t deal with each transaction the very minute after it transpires.
My terrible maintenance-shunning process was: avoid tracking finances altogether and try to make sense of it all over a frantic 1-2 week period right close to the tax deadline. I would dump a pile of receipts on my bed with my laptop next to me with about 50 tabs open of bank account statements and emails, then try to make the most educated guesses as to what every dollar in and dollar out was for. This was supremely inefficient and many errors occurred as a result of it. I simply couldn't remember everything, nor did I track it enough to be able to find out. Spending time trying to figure out what something was for is a waste of time because it could have been dealt with and accounted for on the spot - right when you know why you just spent what you spent.
My decision to get a bookkeeper - to pay someone to track my finances with me and teach me better practices - was one of the best decisions of my entire young adulthood. The funny thing is, I did this first for my business (www.silverthornstudios.ca) which was a total nightmare to do bookkeeping for alone, then I realized it would be best to do it for myself, a year later. Now, I don’t dread 2 entire weeks of the year in April when I have to sort through a fall-leaf-pile’s worth of receipts wondering what the f*ck I spent this two dollars and sixty-five cents on eight and a half months ago.
Now I use Quickbooks, and snap a photo of my receipts in Dext, right after I buy something (or at the latest, by the end of the week).
In the world of fitness, you can maintain your current strength and size level by doing ⅓ of the volume as long as you keep the same intensity and nutrition. The alternative is to stop exercising completely and not pay attention to your nutrition, in which case you atrophy quickly, lose all of your gains, and have to slowly reintroduce your body to resistance again or it will get very sore from just a few sets of hard work. The whole process sets you back easily a couple of months, which in a human lifetime is actually quite a large fraction of time.
Try and make maintenance a habit. Science suggests it take around 66 days minimum to establish a habit. The difference between a habit and 'just something you do from time to time' is that the habit becomes a built in part of your daily or weekly ritual in that particular domain.
Identify the most chaotic domains in your life and start there. Not everything needs maintenance, but most things do. Almost everyone has something which feels like the thing you can't keep up with or that you can't seem to get a handle on. Next, research ways that you can simplify, systematize, automate, and ritualize the behaviour that will deal with that domain regularly so that you never get overwhelmed by it. The process of implementing the habit will not necessarily feel good at first. It's a challenge asking you to elevate your skills and self-respect.
If you were asked the question, “what do you need to build a triangle?” your answer would likely be “3 lines.” It’s so simple, right? That’s just how its done. Well, yes, but what if I told you that the use of each line would deduct 5 years from your lifespan and harm your neighbours in some inexplicable way? What would you do then? You’d have to rethink.
Bodybuilding, for the entire 20th century (and still now) has mostly been done by permanently borrowing the flesh of animals to absorb into one’s own muscles. The ass of a pig makes you a quadzilla. The belly of a cow will give you a barrel of a chest. Only recently, has any kind of counter culture sprouted up pulling off the same tremendously difficult feats of physique without the use of meat at all. This blog article tells the story of how I transitioned from a meatful to a meatless diet and the positive benefits I’ve experienced as a result.
I remember the exact moment I decided to ‘become a bodybuilder’. I was in a grocery store in 3rd year university in the meat section and I decided to commit to really putting on mass, so I loaded my basket with red meat and eggs, knowing that the bodybuilders primary tool was food, not barbells. By the end of the year I had gained 15-20lbs of muscle.
Almost a decade later and still pursuing the sport as a hobby, I have come to see bodybuilding in a very different light. For one, going heavily in the direction of the typical high-meat diet eventually sent me in the exact opposite direction - meat-free (vegetarian or meat-low) bodybuilding.
The 1st warning that pushed me in a meatless direction was reading about world class bodybuilders, like Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is vegan now, btw), and what happened to them 20-30 years after their success in the sport. There was a lot of evidence that these guys’ health was in serious jeopardy (particularly their hearts) after so many years of high meat consumption (and yes, steroids, for some, which I’ve never tried and have never been interested in). The 2nd warning was my grocery bill. The 3rd warning was the inescapable encroachment of guilt from the mounting evidence that meat production was one of the leading causes of climate change. The 4th warning was a near-biblical bout of food poisoning from under-cooked skewers, which left me delusional for 5 days. My 5th warning was less of a warning and more of a social influence - my girlfriend and all of my roommates were vegetarian.
These are my observations after pulling meat out of the equation for 2 years:
No more instances of food poisoning (zero!)
Better, more consistent, faster bowel movements (Too much information, I know)
Drastically faster meal prep and consumption
Lower $/lb of protein spent
Haven’t been sick once since I began
My mind is at ease knowing I’m not racking up potentially bad karma (does an animal really have to die for my biceps?)
I can not say for certain whether reducing meat down to only a few times a year has been the exact cause of all of the above, since correlation does not equal causation, but some of the points I am 100% certain are a direct result.
It's true that there is no one-size fits all diet and that different bodies and lifestyles require different approaches, which is why I am not advocating for you to try this yourself by any means. Rather, I would prefer you look at whatever pursuit or field you are currently in and ask yourself the following questions:
Is there a way I can pursue this that has a lower environmental/pain impact for other living things?
Is it possible that I could achieve the same (or better) results by going completely against the status quo of my field?
What am I harming (either in myself or in another being) by the way I am going about this?
Have I researched any other successful people in my field who has succeeded by not doing what everyone else is doing?
The more specific you can be, the better.
So, how do you build a triangle without 3 lines? You get much smaller pieces of material - fine enough, like sand, that you can pour out on the table and shape into anything you want - including: A triangle.
Point being - lines are rigid, pre-built, and perfect for the job. The problem is they’re too good to be true and you lose 15 years off your life if you use them, so better off reinventing the wheel, and make your triangle from scratch.
A Typical Meatless/Meat-low Day of Bodybuilding For Me: *As organic as my budget will allow *Plenty of Berkey filtered water throughout the day, sometimes with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or 100% fruit juice added to dilute it
1 or 2 coffees throughout the day 4 eggs + 4 egg whites + toast 50 grams of New Zealand whey protein + walnuts + piece of fruit 50 grams of New Zealand whey protein + can of chick peas + cucumbers (or other vegetable) Protein bar + dried fruit + nuts + dark chocolate Pasta with ground pepper, sea salt, crushed red peppers, and parmesan Half a tub of greek yogurt with frozen blueberries or raspberries
Though what comes to mind is one of my dad's Buddhist mantras: "when you sit, sit; when you eat, eat; when you shit, shit," I also know that for some of us, especially for Millennials, we just can't seem to get enough time to do what we want to do. How can you do just one thing at a time all the time? For the most part, it's still mostly the way to live, but there are some life hacks worth noting and applying to one's daily routine that don't seem to harm a thing.
The challenge of our generation is that we are exposed to so many forms of media that we it's difficult to not get swept away with too many interests, tasks, passions, distractions - you name it. The most prolific artist I ever met - Aron Tager - had no computer, cell phone, or television. What did he have to show for it? Over 5,000 pieces of incredible original artwork.
Get rid of your distractions and watch your productivity sky-rocket, right? Well, I wish I could say it were that facile. Aron was born in the 1930s, so he has no inherent connection to shiny new devices. It's unrealistic to tell a Millennial to chuck their devices out the window.
"Discovering your 2-in-1s means finding those things that work synergistically with each other and allow you to truly accomplish two or more things at once without diminishing either one of them."
Here is a list of ones I've discovered that work well for me:
1) Cardio + reading: assuming you're not doing HIIT (high intensity interval training), it's safe to say doing cardio at the gym is an excellent opportunity to take in your daily news, book chapter, or podcast.
2) Toilet + texting: what better time to catch up on unattended messages?
3) Working out + meditation: working out it a form of de-stressing and when approached with calm, can be a time in your day when you clear your head and reset your body and mind.
4) Public transit + music theory (or anything that you're trying to learn that involves some kind of theory): sitting on the train for an hour can be drag. Why not take this time brush up on the knowledge that you would normally study at a desk?
5) Biking (5 in 1?!): biking is an anomaly that provides so many benefits in one action, it's hard to believe. For one, it's exercise. For two, it's a mode of transportation. For three, it helps reduce carbon emissions. For four, it's saves you money. For five--need I go on?
6) Intermittent fasting + being productive: intermittent fasting--an eating system that allows for certain periods of fasting followed by defined feeding windows--has proven to be one of my favourite 2-in-1s. It allows me to lose weight and get more work done than I normally would. As a bodybuilder, it's usually essential to eat 5-8 meals a day, which takes a lot of time and it's always interrupting whatever else you have to do that day. I.F. also helps extend your lifespan, so you know - that's good too!
Some of these don't seem like 2-in-1s, but they actually are--they're just so perfect you hardly think of them as getting 2 things done at once. For example, biking to work is doing cardio plus getting you to your destination PLUS saving the world from one more environment taxing, exhaust powered trip. With driving, you could listen to a podcast and make it a 2-in-1, but then you're also contributing to green house gases (unless you have a Tesla) and you're not getting any exercise.
The key is to find the 2/3/4/5-in-1s that match your lifestyle and values. For example, if you value environmentalism and health, buying organic food might be a good 2-in-1 for you: it preserves the earth and it's healthy. If you also value time, perhaps you'd be delighted to sign up for something like Fresh City Farms, which delivers organic food to your house each week.
Now, certain 2-in-1s seem like a good idea, but are in fact dangers or distractions in disguise. For example, more than a handful of my harmonica students like to report that they were able to get in their practicing this week--while driving! This 2-in-1 is not only not very effective, it's also dangerous and puts others at risk. You won't get good at playing an instrument while doing anything else at the same. When you're learning something that complex give it your undivided attention. Some things are meant to be good ole' 1-in-1s.
Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can discover a passion, which perfectly grants you a 2-in-1. For example, I love and value good food and I'm a bodybuilder. This is a wonderful combination since bodybuilders have to eat more than the average person.
Discover your passion, and start fishing for the 2-in-1s that apply to your field. You'll be surprised where you find them.
Did you know that you are actually in a relationship? Actually, you're in multiple relationships. Yep, being ‘single’ doesn’t really exist. It’s just colloquial slang for “not in a ‘romantic/sexual/’ relationship.”
Why is this the case? Well, you first must consider the question "what is a relationship?" My definition is: any interaction where both parties are affected in some way. This may seem broad, but it's actually a pretty solid definition.
"By this definition, you’re in a relationship with everyone you know and people you’ve never met, they’re just different kinds of relationships."
In fact, I'd go as far to say that you're in a relationship with every person, animal, place, and thing on the planet! For the sake of our sanity, I'll keep this article grounded by just discussing the most important people that you're in a relationship with (and maybe, the pets).
Think about all the people you stay in contact with on a regular basis and all of the people who you serve and who serve you in some way or another (yep, even the guy who serves you waffles once a year at your nephew's birthday party). What matters most is that you trust the people you're in a relationship with to fulfill a certain role, and when they don’t, it throws you off.
Here are the 10 different types of relationships:
Mentor: someone who imparts knowledge to you and helps you grow
Romance: someone who makes you feel really alive, who you desire to see in order to make life exciting. You may also have the desire to touch and cuddle this person, share intimate details about yourself with them, and plan a life with them, but it’s not necessarily sexual (but often is).
Sibling: someone similar to yourself in some way who you can confide in and be friends with, but who you are also there for (and who is there for you) on a fundamental level (not an optional level). If they/you landed in the hospital, you'd/they'd be there in a heart beat.
Friend: someone with shared interests or a compatible personality with your own who you like to share experiences with, but who you don’t necessarily feel the need to be emotionally or physically intimate with and who you are fine spending a large amounts of time away from without separation anxiety, which often accompanies romantic relationships
Guardian: someone who cares for you or provides basic necessities for you (regardless of age, though these relationships tend to be more important at the beginning and end of life)
Sexual: someone you have sexual relations with
Ally: someone you work with to accomplish things (co-worker, business partner, classmate)
Muse/Idol: someone who inspires you, but who you may not necessarily know personally
Service: someone who provides a product or service for you including paying you for services you provide to them, but who you may not know personally
Opponent: someone who you dislike, whose ideas you oppose, or who you generally try and avoid and oppose for any number of reasons
Each category has its own sub categories and often you can be in a relationship with somebody in multiple categories at once. Your relationship with someone can also change and shift categories over time. One day, you might have a friend, who then becomes an opponent over night, because they stole your girlfriend.
One reason why it seems so difficult for people to answer the question, “what kind of relationship do you want?” is because it’s normal to simply assume that one is talking about a sexual relationship that are also supposed to cover a bunch of other relationship types. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the person you’re dating (and on yourself) for now you have to be simultaneously good at everything! For some people, this actually does 'pan out' (it continues rather than ends, until death do you part). For most, it’s a burden and they’d be better off seeking more people to fulfill the different categories rather than assuming that the person who sleeps in the same bed as them is somehow balancing their life, career and sanity while also fulfilling 8 other reliable ‘roles’ just for YOU.
Unless you feel like you have it all figured out, consider this: a balanced life distributes the different relationship types between different people. If you’re lacking something, look at the list above and think about which type you may be missing. Likely if you’re stuck right now in any capacity, it’s because you’re lacking a relationship type or you’ve mis-identified certain people as being a particular type that they are not. If you’re constantly getting sick, you’re lacking a service/mentor (in health). If you’re lonely, you’re lacking a friend/romantic/sibling. If you’re short on security and basic necessities, you’re lacking a guardian/parent figure. If you’re low on inspiration, you’re lacking a muse/mentor. If you’re stagnant in your career your lacking ally/mentor/service relationships. If you’re lacking someone to confide in you’re lacking a sibling/friend/guardian.
Even pets can fulfill some of these roles, which is why cats and dogs are so prominent as friend/sibling/romance partners. Pets can also be great mentors and pain-in-the-ass opponents. The weird thing is, just because in your mind, you’re in a certain type of relationship with somebody else, it doesn’t mean that they are in the same kind of relationship with you. This is often why people break up, because the two people don’t see things in the same way and therefore there is a breakdown in the functionality of roles that are expected to be fulfilled. It’s not a bad idea to take inventory from time to time with all the people you stay in contact with regularly (let’s say, within a year’s time) and plot out which category they represent for you. If you feel like you’re not the same for them, there’s something there.
As you’ve heard before, trust is the most important element of any of these relationships (even the opponent, for you trust them to piss you off!). Whenever you’re offended or hurt by something that somebody has ‘done to you’ consider that it’s because you assumed you were in a particular kind of relationship with that person and perhaps they didn’t see it that way. Some people also ‘try on’ different relationships to see if it really feels like a fit, which can also lead to pain. Dating is probably the best example of this, since it’s assumed that you’re meeting up for the purpose of eventually having a romantic/sexual relationship. When one person feels like it’s a ‘yes’ and the other one ‘isn’t sure’ then the latter person is ‘trying on’ the idea of considering you as a romance/sexual partner, but you’re not actually approved yet, which means you aren’t actually in a relationship with them yeteven if you wish you were.
Assessing the quality of your relationships means seeing things from both sides. It's not just "Am I satisfied with all of the people I'm in a relationship with?" it's "Are all the people I'm in relationships with satisfied with me? If not, why not? How can I be a better partner to everyone?" A great question is:
“what is the quality of the sum of all my relationships and which ones am I missing?”
The question is not “do I believe in ‘the one’” it’s “who all do I need to build relationships with for a good, balanced life?”
Most relationships tend to come about naturally, but sometimes you actually have to treat relationship-building as work. That’s why people complain about dating and job interviews, since they’re seeking sexual/romance/friends and ally/service/mentors and this is not always easy to do!
Now, here is the most mind-blowing part of this whole article. YOU are simultaneously fulfilling all of the relationship types with yourself when they’re not being met by someone else (or you should be/you’re forced to).
Oliver Twist becomes his own guardian by becoming a pick-pocket to provide basic necessities for himself
When you’re sick, most often you research online first to be your own mentor
When you’re tired of your life, you seek out hobbies in which you can aMUSE yourself
Each month you should pay yourself first (being in a Service relationship with yourself) to accrue savings and look out for your own future
Everyone is their own opponent on a daily basis, since no one agrees with themselves all of the time and that’s part of what makes you smarter as you get better at discerning after doing your research
SO - go take inventory of which relationship types you’re missing, then get to work by either better fulfilling them yourself or by actively seeking someone else out who can do it better than you.
I see a lot of one-liner advice these days, especially with the lightning-fast consumer culture of social media. Taking something like “don’t compare yourself to others” at point blank really isn’t a great idea, since it has no depth, it’s one-sided, and there’s no discussion involved. Anything that doesn’t require you to ask questions to yourself isn’t really ‘a thing’ at all - it’s a gift from the universe, a cheap freebie to help temporarily bolster your sense of self-worth that will disappear as quickly as it appeared.
The point is not to not compare yourself to others, but rather to come to understand WHY you are different, why that’s okay or not, and what you can learn from others who are ahead of you in any given field of life. If you determine that it’s okay and you understand the underlying causes as to why that is the case, your soul will be at rest. If it’s not okay, that may be a terrible feeling, but it may be just the feeling that makes you decide to change your ways or to get to know yourself better. It may highlight the fact that you’re not trying hard enough, that you’re self-sabotaging, or that you don’t have much innate talent at something, which is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s just as useful as discovering what talents you do have. Alternately, comparison may just trigger that simple ugly feeling of egotism, envy, jealousy, or lack of self-esteem, which is likely highlighting that you’re lusting after something, which ultimately isn’t in line with your true values after all and therefore isn’t worth pursuing anyway.
Don’t resist or neglect comparison simply because it easily causes negative emotions (just like going to the dentist, which is generally considered a good idea). The key is to figure out which emotions are rooted in egotism and which are rooted in truth, which can help you grow. Comparison is a necessary and useful tool to help you measure where you stand in all of the world’s many hierarchies, and it’s the same mechanism that helps you determine when to walk across the street, whether to eat cucumbers or steak, and whether to send that racy text to your crush or not. All decisions are based on comparison, so just embrace it and get to know yourself better.
Here’s a question to meditate on if you’re struggling with comparison:
Why do I feel bad when I think of this other person I’m comparing myself to?
Is it because: A) I feel I could never achieve what they’ve achieved. B) I know I COULD achieve what they’ve achieved, and this highlights the fact that I’ve been lazy, unhealthy, undisciplined, choosing to remain ignorant, afraid. C) I don’t really know what I want, and I feel that this person really does and it shows through their success and that makes me jealous. D) I know for certain that I want what they have, but I don’t know how to get there. E) They look happier than me.
Write down the answers that apply to you, then write down thoughts about the possible implications of your answers, for example:
A. I feel I could never achieve what they’ve achieved. Perhaps you couldn’t, but why? 1. Is the element of that person you’re comparing yourself to something they were ‘gifted’ at birth (ie, good looks, long legs) or is it something they worked hard to achieve? If it’s the former, it’s worth letting go and instead finding out what your given ‘gifts’ are instead, then nurturing those. 2. Is the person you’re comparing yourself to a savant? If so, that means they are severely talented and severely handicapped. Do you really wish that upon yourself? 3. Have you researched how much time they’ve actually put into what they’re doing? 4. Do you know how well this person is doing in other areas of their life? Often, wildly successful people have put all their eggs in one basket. When you look behind the curtain, you find that these individuals are often bereft of health/balance in many other areas of their life. 5. Do they have a ‘ballet dancers body’ and you have the body of a shot-put champion? Perhaps try and understand that you might be better off pursuing something that you are naturally built for OR consider that maybe you could be the person to ‘break the mould’ in the ballet world, by being equally as good a dancer, but with a totally different body type (a great example of this is Hamilton, in the world of musicals)
B. I know I COULD achieve what they’ve achieved, and this highlights the fact that I’ve been lazy, unhealthy, undisciplined, choosing to remain ignorant, afraid. 1. Do you have a mentor or coach who can help you stay on track? 2. Do you need to ‘pull yourself together’ (ie. get your addictions under control, improve your integrity, MAKE a schedule, STICK to a schedule, feel more ‘growth’ pain)? 3. Is there a program I could take that would help me progress to the next level? 4. Do you have friends and family who support you and your endeavours? If not, prioritize finding people that do.
C. I don’t really know what I want, and I feel that this person really does and it shows through their success and that makes me jealous. 1. Allot more time in your week to discovering who you are: journal, write down your dreams, take yourself on dates and try new things, pick 2 new hobbies and pursue them long enough to know if you like them, consider exploring ways to delve deeper into your psyche, ask your friends and family what your strengths are.
D.I know for certain that I want what they have, but I don’t know how to get there. 1. Interview that person 2. Find a mentor 3. Read/research that industry and other successful people in that industry
E. They look happier than me. 1. Happiness comes and goes for everyone. What sticks around is meaning and purpose. Seek meaning and purpose first and let happiness come and go like clouds in the sky. 2. It’s key to understand that you are only seeing what they allow you to see, which is almost always positive moments that paint them in a good light. This is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ syndrome that's especially prominent in social today. THE MAJORITY of that person’s true feelings and states of being are kept to themselves.